For many of us, spontaneous, flexible, and courageous aren’t really words that are typical descriptors. Those of us in the Honors program often like things to meet expectations and be in order. In Brazil, we have had to adapt to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and learn how to go for it.

For example, on Friday, correspondence I had been having for a month and a half came to fruition. For my scientific research class in the spring, I studied and summarized a paper about biomass burning pollution and lung cells. The research took place in São Paulo. It took 20 seconds of courage for me to find the lead researcher’s email and write to her, and only 24 hours for her to respond.

The lead researcher gave me the contact information for two other researchers at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), a tier 1 research university. After several emails and WhatsApp messages with those researchers, it worked out that 8 of us could go visit their facility at USP!

Dr. Kovach and Mariana, the head of the Toxicology department at USP.


All of us with Gustavo, a doctoral student studying DNA repair.

Our Uber trip was enough of an adventure itself– it took 4 of us to fumble through our Portuguese to somewhat carry on a conversation with our sweet driver. We gathered a number of facts, especially that his son’s fiance lived in Texas (deduced by the driver’s description of “chapeaus” and “botas”: hats and boots). God whispered “Go for it. Make conversation with this man who has a different story, country, and language, even if it’s hard and awkward.” And it was worth every miscommunication for the sake of the laughter and bonding we experienced.

At USP, we got to see some of the research that is currently being done. For example, they are currently studying the effect of air pollution on obesity (Excuse me while I geek out). But we also got to see many bodies which were being autopsied. I have never seen a dead, naked, human body before, and I wasn’t sure how I would react to it. But again I heard, Go for it, and I did. It was a very sobering experience, especially because one of the bodies was that of a baby. The previous day, we had been at a public OB-GYN hospital and had seen many babies in the NICU. The contrast between a NICU baby and a deceased baby about to be autopsied demanded our attention and emotion.

Saturday was family day. We got to spend the whole day with our mom, and part of the day with our host sister. Additionally, our host mom’s granddaughter and her granddaughter’s mom joined us for lunch. Once again, there was an awkward language barrier. Go for it.

Later, we went to a professional handball game 2 hours away in an area we would not have otherwise seen and it was not at all what we were expecting. Go for it. That was one of the most fun sports I have ever watched! I have a new favorite pastime.

Then we bought corn juice. Go for it…and then we realized that our first reaction to the words “corn juice” was accurate.

My roommate and host mom with our corn juice

At 11 PM, we went to a samba/zuki club. I don’t stay up late, I don’t dance, and I definitely don’t know how to do the zuki. But, you know, go for it… and then fail miserably. But I am so thankful that I took the first step in trying to learn, even though it didn’t come as easily to me as it did some of my other friends!

Going with the flow, being courageous, and putting our carefully-packaged-selves out to be weathered by the rain or snow or sun is terrifying. But I’ve been learning that to be weathered is to be truly alive– to experience everything with every sense and emotion. Just go for it.

Categories: Brazil 2018


Colleen Denny · May 14, 2018 at 12:33 am

Bekah, I’ve been so impressed with seeing you “go for it” here. You are a strong and capable woman!

Lisa Torrell · May 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Rebekah, I can see you are really enjoying your experiences here! Thx for sharing so I understand a bit more about what is going on in Brazil! It must have been very difficult to see the deceased baby. I’ll pray for the family who lost that child and for all of you. Many blessings! 🙂

Rebekah Distaffen · May 14, 2018 at 10:43 pm

Bekah, I absolutely loved reading this! It was so insightful and beautiful. I am so glad you’ve been taking opportunities to “go for it” during this trip, and I am excited to see what more awaits you! And, I am glad you made the ultimate “go for it” decision and joined the Honors program and came with us 🙂

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *